Spontaneity According to The Cubist: Andre Lhote

Andre Lhote

La Danse au bar (Gypsy Bar), Andre Lhote

One of the novelist-bloggers that I follow, Christina Baker Kline, posted a quote by Andre Lhote (1923) that to me gets at the heart of writing (because that’s the craft, or some would argue art, that I know best):

The essence of art is sensitivity.  How does one retain the freshness of sensitivity?  Answer: By working without worry, freely.  How does one work freely?  By possessing a technique which permits one to work spontaneously:  it is necessary, therefore, to possess the elements of this technique.  Meditation in front of the works of the masters puts one in possession of the eternal rules of art.  Once these rules are learned there is nothing left but to know how to apply them to one’s own temperament.

Funny how a French sculptor and painter who worked in modernist styles including Fauvism and Cubism and was part of a group of revolutionaries including Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and Jacques Villon, and writers somehow have the same world view. Bridging art and writing… It just shows that concepts and the words to describe those concepts are timeless…



  1. Excellent quote! I would just add that “a technique which permits one to work spontaneously” depends not only on meditation before masterworks, but on dedicated practice. I think that applies to art, writing, music, etc.

  2. I agree, Fred. Great art/writing is based on dedicated practice before the artist/writer ever puts brush to canvas or focuses the lens at the “spontaneous” moment. “Spontaneous” may not mean “at an instantaneous moment” in the case where a lightning rod strikes the artist (or writer) with a stroke of brilliance, but is the moment after accumulating a series of ideas/thoughts when the artist/writer says “I’m ready. Where’s my pen?”

  3. Perhaps the reason for “having the same worldview” is because writing, painting, music etc are the medium for expressing concepts which are often shared across the arts in general.
    I agree about the dedicated pracice too. Otherwise you never get to push past boundaries. (It also helps not having constant noises & interuptions!Sorry a personal grumble, as I’m fed up of living next to what seems like a permanent building-site).

  4. Sonya, maybe the building distraction would give you a slightly different perspective than the norm? Even though it’s jarring, maybe it could inform your work in some way – take it down a different path. Or it could “time stamp” your work. Though I agree, construction sites make it difficult to work! The snowtrucks that rumble through the street are sometimes unbearable.

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